Peach sellers look to recover from low supplies, high prices

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 9:16 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 2, 2014 4:35 AM
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After a slow start, plenty of peaches are hitting local fruit stands.

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Sebrena Muirhead lines up baskets of peaches for sale at her stand, called Nothing But Fresh Produce, on Walton Way.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Sebrena Muirhead lines up baskets of peaches for sale at her stand, called Nothing But Fresh Produce, on Walton Way.

Produce seller Sebrena Muirhead lost out on peach sales in May and June. Farms in South Carolina’s prime peach-growing region were asking too high a price because of a shortage of early variety peaches, she said.

On the first day of July, Muirhead said supplies were picking up, perfect timing for her customers hoping to make peach cobblers and homemade ice cream during the July Fourth holiday weekend.

“Everything’s back to normal. It’s much easier to get them,” said Muirhead, wiping her brow at the tailgate of her red Chevy pickup parked in the 1700 block of Walton Way.

A hard freeze in late March ruined South Carolina’s early peach crop, causing about $80 million in damage. With a low supply, high prices hit most sellers hard until later varieties were ready for picking.

“May and June were as bad as we expected,” said Sonny Yonce, a peach farmer in Johnston, S.C. “Now, we need a recovery and to move on. We’re fixin’ to enter that phase.”

The packing plant at J.W. Yonce & Sons still only operates in the morning, but Yonce expects it to return to normal levels within the week. Freestone peaches – the crowning glory of the harvest – are coming off the trees but not at high volumes, he said.

Peach lovers in Augusta and surrounding areas shouldn’t have problems finding the fruit at local stands, but Yonce said his farm hasn’t been able to ship them to stores in the Northeast and Midwest.

Alexander Kenner, who sells produce at the Augusta State Farmer’s Market on Fifth Street, paid higher prices in June to keep a steady supply at his stand. Entering July, it’s easier to get his hands on peaches as the prices fall.

“The supply was OK if you were willing to pay,” Kenner said.

He sold a basket of peaches for $22 on Tuesday, down $5 from the beginning of the season.

Despite the losses, farmers, sellers and consumers have celebrated the sweet and juicy peaches. The quality has been as good as ever, they said.

“This has been very unusual,” Yonce said. “It’s just been surprisingly good this summer.”

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seenitB4 07/02/14 - 09:21 am
I am a peachlover

I remember the peach trees in our yard near Peach Orch big & juicy...but the road did get the name from peaches...:)

jimmymac 07/02/14 - 12:46 pm

Looks like I'll be heading over to Trenton for some peaches and fresh peach ice cream this weekend.

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/02/14 - 02:24 pm
Vendor Break Even

If I were a curb market vendor and had a good supply of other fruits and vegetables I would have bought the peaches and sold them at cost. I know as a businessman that offering at cost merchandise is not a good model but I would want to keep the customers coming so when the price moderated they would come back for more purchases.

And of course as always just like seenit I ran Peach Orchard Road in my early years. I can also remember a peach orchard on the East side of Highway 25/Peach Orchard Rd just North of Brier Creek in Burke County. Sad but it's gone and planted pines replaced ti.

rmwhitley 07/02/14 - 04:25 pm
I hate

it for the peach growers. I grew up in Johnston and worked in a peach processing plant throughout high school.

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